The last time Steve Fisher coached a team with this much hype he was 20 years younger in Ann Arbor and his starting lineup consisted of the Fab Five.
Not even in 2010-2011, when his Aztec team went 34-3 and produced two NBA Draft picks, including Kawhi Leonard, has Fisher had a team that entered a season with this kind of expectation.
He brings back four starters from an NCAA tournament while adding three impact transfers and a vaunted recruiting class headlined by Winston Shepard, one of the nation’s top 25 recruits.
With a student fan base that’s rapidly become as rabid as any in the country, you can only imagine the kind of talk that’s going on around campus. Top ten ranking? Final Four? NATIONAL TITLE?!?!?
Fisher’s already been forced to enter ‘slow down, ya’ll’ mode.
“I would say it’s probably the most talked about team that we’ve had,” Fisher told the AP. “To be honest with you, right now it’s not the best team we’ve had. I’ll harken back to the first time we ever got ranked two years ago. I knew how good that team was because they had all those guys at a very high level that had done it the year before and were returning. You might say, `Well you had guys returning from last year.’ We do, but not to that degree in terms of the numbers that we had then, and they were all going to be seniors, too, with the exception of Kawhi, who played like a senior.”
“Yeah, it’s the most hyped-up team. We won’t match the record we had two years ago. 34-3. There is nobody in the country that’s going to do that, but we’re going to have a good team.”
I’ll agree with one thing here: SDSU won’t match that gaudy 34-3 record. They may not make it through conference play with less than three losses. The conference is strong and balanced, and the Aztecs play a a couple of quality opponents in their non-conference schedule.
Beyond that, however, this sounds like Fisher trying to keep his team from buying into their own hype. He brings back experienced players that have been in the program for years, including an All-American in Jamaal Franklin, and adds enough front court strength — Dwayne Polee, JJ O’Brien, Winston Shepard, James Johnson in December — to their vaunted perimeter attack that the Aztecs will be able to play with anyone in the country.
Obviously, there are kinks that are going to have to be worked out with this group. That many news faces will take time to mesh. But if you think that Fisher is anything but ecstatic with the team he has at his disposal, you’re crazy.